Steamboat family flees path of massive East Troublesome Fire burning in Grand County
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — David Heil was in Steamboat Springs on Thursday, but his thoughts and prayers were with the community of Grand Lake where he has been the pastor of Trinity Church in the Pines for the past 11 years.
“The good thing is that Grand Lake is evacuated and I believe that everyone is out and safe, but at the same time everyone’s property is in danger and we’re very concerned about that,” Heil said Thursday. “No matter what happens, we’ve got one another and we’ve got God, and that love is going to get us through this.”
The East Troublesome Fire exploded overnight Wednesday when it started burning about 6,000 acres per hour. By Thursday morning it had reached over 125,000 acres. It has so far claimed homes and other buildings and prompted the town of Grand Lake, about 20 miles north of Granby, to evacuate. The towns of Hot Sulphur Springs and Granby are on pre-evacuation status. The fire experienced another 50,000 acres in growth by 5 p.m. Thursday.
Heil is a member of the Steamboat and Grand Lake communities. He had returned to Steamboat after church Sunday to be with his two boys, who are students at Steamboat Springs High School, while Heil’s wife, Christina, headed back home to Grand Lake for a few days.
“We hope and pray that the fire can be contained and not go into Grand Lake, but at the same time there are so many people who have already lost everything,” Heil said.
By Wednesday afternoon, ash started falling on the charming, lakeside town of Grand Lake. When officials gave the order to evacuate about 9 p.m., Heil’s wife and their daughter, Hannah, loaded the family’s dog and other important items into their car and escaped to Steamboat. They made it along U.S. Highway 40, which was closed to travelers just a bit later that night.
“They were seeing the flames on the drive from Grand Lake to here,” Heil said. “They got here safely and I’m grateful. Right now, the fire is just right at the doorsteps of Grand Lake.”
Monetary donations can be directed to the Grand Foundation. Visit grandfoundation.com and click on the donate button for Grand County Wildfire Emergency Fund. 100% of that money goes to help local people affected by the fire.
Food and clothing are now being accepted at Fraser Elementary School, 125 Eastom Ave. in Fraser.
Donations to Trinity Church in the Pines can be sent to PO Box 882703, Steamboat Springs, CO, 80487.
Trinity Church in the Pines livestreams its Sunday services made possible by KPA Productions online at twitch.tv/tcpchurch.
The Heil family resides in the church’s manse but also owns a small condo in Steamboat where they have lived part time for several years so the children can attend school.
Heil’s oldest daughter, Mollie, graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2016, and now lives in Tucson, Arizona. Hannah Heil graduated in 2018, and was home from New York University where she is studying vocal performance. Ben Heil is a senior this year at Steamboat Springs High School and Tad Heil is a sophomore.
“We heard great things about the Steamboat (Springs) School District, and at the time Grand Lake had closed their elementary school and some of our kids were still in elementary,” Heil said. “We had heard such great things about Steamboat and we decided we should check out the schools, and we did. We’ve never looked back, and it’s been great for all the kids.”
The family is very connected to Grand Lake, and their concern for their home, their friends and that community have filled their thoughts this week.
“Not knowing right now is the worst,” Heil said. “We certainly pray and hope for the best, and we pray for all the people in Grand County who have lost so much, and potentially are about to.
“You can replace things, but not loved ones. We were fortunate that we are out safe, and we’re fortunate we have a place to go to — a lot of people don’t.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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